Wednesday, July 11, 2007

No, please, you go first

The mixed reception to the Live Earth extravaganza points to curious lingering question about the public ability to take action on climate change. For all the “what you can do to fight climate change” lists, a survey published last month suggests the real problem is convincing people that individual actions will add up.

The report “What assures consumers on climate change?” published by Consumers International in June found that 75% of people in the US and UK are concerned about climate change but don't see how personal action would make a difference. The report was flavour of the day in the ADD-blogosphere a couple weeks back and forgotten far too quickly.

This conclusion from the report says something about what broad community events, like Live Earth, could maybe accomplish:

... th
e current strategy of using more information to shift individuals one-by-one from a position of concern to one of action, is having limited impact. Such approaches only work where individuals feel that they are acting as part of a community which reciprocates and endorses their action. This may mean their immediate community of like minded peers, their national community including government and big business or even the global community. To get people to act in the confusion of an information rich world requires that they see that others are acting.

I still think it should have been held on Labour Day.


EliRabett said...

Or they can be waiting for others to act for them

The latest issue of the New Yorker has a wonderful example of how public opinion works. In the seventies all surveys of hockey players showed overwhelming support for protective helmets. On the other hand, very few players wore them. The reason was that there was a small advantage in not wearing a helmet because of a loss of peripheral vision.

When the NHL mandated helmets, everyone put them on immediately with very little to no complaint, because the rule had leveled the playing field.

You see the same thing with SUV/small cars. If there is no rule, there is a small safety advantage being in an SUV so people buy and drive them while saying they want higher gas mileage. If SUVs were ruled off the road, the field would be level and people would rapidly transition to smaller cars. Same with CAFE standards. These are situations where regulations have to level the field.

Simon Donner said...

The New Yorker piece - here's the link - is right on the money.